The York Theatre Company will give Sharon McNight's Sophie Tucker solo musical show, Red Hot Mama, its New York City premiere beginning April 30.
Tony Award nominee McNight (Starmites) created the "musical tribute" as a cabaret piece, The Sophie Tucker Songbook, in 1996 and has refined it into a full evening focusing on the life and songs of the vaudeville comedienne Tucker, known for singing "Some of These Days" (her signature tune), "After You've Gone," My Yiddishe Mama," and "I'm Living Alone (And I Like It)."
In its development, the work was seen at an ASCAP showcase in 1996 as The Sophie Tucker Songbook and then later regionally at Denver Center Theatre Company and elsewhere (as Red Hot Mama). Opening night at York, the Off Broadway company devoted to intimate stagings of musicals, is May 8. Performances continue to June 9.
Tucker (1884-1966) was the blowsy comic actress who appeared on Broadway, in burlesque, clubs, vaudeville, Ziegfeld's 1909 Follies, movies and on TV. She was known for the so-called "naughty songs" (such as "There's Company in the Parlor, Girls, Come on Down"). She was born Sonia Kalish, in either Russia or Poland, and came to America as an infant, with her parents. After singing in her parents' restaurant, she became a star known for her brassy, zaftig quality. She also appeared in the Broadway musical, Leave It to Me. She was billed as "The Last of the Red-Hot Mamas."
Jay Berkow directs the show, which is scripted by McNight. Louis Goldberg is musical director. McNight made her Broadway debut in the science-fiction musical comedy, Starmites, playing an evil character named Diva. She was Tony-nommed for her work and won a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut. Regionally, she has been seen in Amanda McBroom's Heartbeats at the Pasadena Playhouse, and has 23 years of cabaret experience and six solo recordings (including "The Sophie Tucker Songbook").
Musical arrangements for Red Hot Mama are by Stan Freeman. Designers are James Morgan (scenic) and Patti Whitelock (costume).
Red Hot Mama replaces the musical, Lady in Penthouse B, which the York hopes to stage in its next season.
Tickets are $45. York operates out of The Theatre at St. Peter's in the Citicorp Center, 619 Lexington Ave. at 54th Street. For information, call (212) 239-6200 or the York at (212) 935 5820.
— By Kenneth Jones